Monday, July 11, 2011

The Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove

David, Malachi and I arrived back in Illinois yesterday evening, having extended our 4.5-hour drive from Louisville to nearly 8 hours, due to our stopping at several fascinating antique malls and flea markets on the way home and very nearly being prevented from leaving a small southern Indiana town due to having parked in the route of their parade, which yesterday kicked off the start of their annual county fair. At any rate, we are back. We have now been immersed in the world of early-1800's living history and we love it.
The historic setting of Locust Grove was, I thought, quite a perfect spot for a Jane Austen gala. The house reminded me of what I had always imagined the Bennett family to live in and the grounds expansive, well tended and beautiful with a "prettyish wilderness" in various locations, perfect for strolling.
We arrived early on Saturday morning and spent the first bit of our visit enjoying a witty play about the life of Jane Austen, and her stories. It was very enjoyable, although, unfortunately, pictures were not allowed during the presentation. Rest assured that it was extremely entertaining! Here David poses with a gentleman he was conversing with on our way to the play.
After the play David visited the Doctor, who, apparently, refers to himself *as* The Doctor and even has a blue box, although I do not know if he refers to it as the tardis or not. Here, he speaks to Malachi.
In passing, Malachi was quite a popular figure at the event. It seems almost everyone who went past us made a comment on how cute he looked and wanted to take a picture of him. Malachi did not care, did not notice, and often made very dismal faces for those who wanted to preserve his image via digital camera. His one great love at the event was his set of black skeleton keys which we purchased from one of the merchants shortly after our arrival. He then spent much of the remainder of his time trying to fit the keys into various cracks or holes he would discover and when he was upset, he displayed his feelings by casting his keys repeatedly upon the ground.
There were very many pretty ladies about, and not very many gentleman. However, the gentlemen who were there were all very dashing indeed. This particular lady is a particularly dear companion of the aforementioned Doctor and was kind enough to consent to a photo outside The Doctor's abode. Her posture, her bearing, her clothing, her manner and her conversation were all so very charming.
The inside of the house was beautifully furnished and restored. We were cautioned to not even touch the wallpaper since it has been reproduced from the actual, original paper that was used in the late 18th century.
There were two stories to the house as well as a comfortable attic that was divided into several rooms and a hall, accessible by a wide stair.
Who would not love to live in a house such as this? The thing that intrigued me the most were the beautiful draperies on the windows as well as the bold, black and white floor cloth laid in the hall and held down by tacks. I most definitely want to make a floor cloth now.
I loved this sweet little bed in this cheerful, very comfortably arranged bedroom. And look! A closet! Tall windows!
Over the course of the day we had the very great pleasure of making the acquaintance of many lovely people. It was such a joy to finally meet in person several ladies whom I have known on the internet.
In some ways, the festival, and the late 18th/early 19th century reenactors we met who were there, seemed a lot more eager to meet and converse and please and be pleased than many 1860's reenactors. Why so? I have no idea, yet there the fact is. Is it because everyone was striving to be elegant and genteel? Because we all had a common love for Jane Austen that made us into a sort of Jane-Austen-loving family?
Not everyone there was devoted exclusively to Jane Austen, though. We met many people who are involved with 1812 events and who invited us to come out to the events - which we would love to do! It seems there are quite a few 1812 events in Indiana.
David was invited to be part of an infantry unit and it was also suggested that he become a member of the state congress (in the reenacting world, of course, not the modern one). I do believe David had a very fine time walking about in his linen coat and weilding his walking stick. He informed me that five women asked him if they could have their pictures taken with him, and one lady saw him and cried out, "You are my hero!" which, I am sure, did little to cultivate humility in his mind and did much to cultivate the braggart air with which he began to walk about.
He did look very well, though, I thought. It struck me how funny it is how married couple's feelings can change over the course of six years. David and I will be married six years this fall and when we were first married both he and I were extremely jealous of anyone else who bestowed attention upon the other. In fact, at one of the first dances we went to after our marriage David actually pulled me out of the dance line when he saw I was dancing with another gentleman.
Now, I enjoy seeing him be admired by others, as he does me - perhaps we are grown to have such complete trust and faith in our mutual affection that we no longer jealously guard each other from the smiles and conversation of others? It is so much more pleasant this way. It is so pleasant to have so many ways we look at each other - as a spouse, a romantic partner, a friend, a companion to joke around with and tease, someone to share your moods, your joys, your sorrows, and to cheer you on and enjoy seeing the success of the other, in whatever way. . .marriage has turned out to be, as we were told, not all walks-in-the-moonlight and hugs and kisses and candlelight dinners. The friendship aspect of our relationship is just as, if not more, important than our romantic relationship. It is lovely having a best friend who is also your husband. It is a blessing from the Lord.
One of the highlights of the festival was being able to meet the lovely Jenni of Living with Jane as well as her husband. Aren't they a fine looking couple?!
And the beautiful Natalie of A Frolic through Time - I tried not to stare at her in too-worshipful-admiration, keeping in mind to the commandment to have no other gods before The Lord, but my goodness!! She COULD be a goddess if one were inclined to pagan practices. She looked positively regal.
The gardens were a source of beauty and delight for Mr. Munchkin. Towards late afternoon he began to grow very tired so we walked through the garden and found a tree under which I spread his little quilt. He lay down for a few minutes while I watched the passers-by and was bitten, to my later discovery, all up and down my legs and backside by some sort of insect that leaves large, red, itchy, painful welts.
I didn't know it at the time though, so drank in the beauty of the scenes before me whilst the tiny vampires were feasting away upon my blood. Ignorance is bliss.
We left in late afternoon - I do so hope to come back next year. I even found some beautiful sheer printed cotton in a light pink color at a flea market on the way home that will be perfect for a day dress - I want one with elbow sleeves and tucks, in the style I was originally going to make my ballgown. There was 5 yards crumpled up on a shelf towards the back of the building the flea market was in so I smoothed and folded it and we asked the owner of the booth how much the fabric was. She had no idea she even had fabric on that shelf and told me I could have it for $1. I was like, heck yeah! So, if that is not A Sign That We Should Return, then I don't know what is.
The ball was held later that evening in a superb room in downtown Louisville. Malachi was not agreeable to being left with anyone so David and I could dance together, so Mr. Munchkin and I had fun taking pictures, conversing with people and David was available to dance with partnerless ladies. We both enjoyed ourselves tremendously.
One lady was so adorable - I asked her if she needed a partner for a certain dance and she acknowledged that yes, she did. I told her to take David and she said, "Thank you, I will." and swooped right down upon his arm and led him off! Gentlemen, if you are reading this, please consider coming out next year and being willing to dance! There is nothing quite so heartbreaking as a lady who has spent a great deal of time and effort to get her gown and accessories just right so she can go to a ball, and, when arriving, finding no one willing to dance with her. My boys will, all three of them, be taught to always dance with a variety of ladies at balls - it is so sad to see gentlemen who DO attend balls only dance with the one woman they came with the entire night. In the period, that kind of behavior would have been shockingly rude and led to scandalous rumours! 
There was an abundance of elegant satins, whispery silks, flowing sheer cottons and flowers, ribbons, feathers, pearls and jewels. Bright eyes, radiant smiles, pink cheeks and little slippered feet.
The refreshments set out for the intermission were all that could be desired. Tiny cookies, nuts, chocolate-dipped fruit and cream puffs, little tarts that tasted of some kind of fish, cubes of cheese and ice cold, ruby red punch and water flavored with orange peels delighted the palate and the eyes.
After the intermission our little guy was growing very sleepy so we left the gaity of the ball room, slipped down the stairs and out into the dusky night. It was very warm and very humid and it seemed like a fog or haze hung over the streets as we went back to our hotel. Malachi was asleep before we left the street our car was parked on and he stayed asleep while I carried him in to the hotel and up to our room and put him in his bed. Poor darling. He was *so* good and only a few times deliberately disobeyed me. Soon he will be old enough to dance with ladies at balls. Hopefully he will have outgrown his flirtatious streak by then.


  1. Sounds like a very pleasant event! Lots of pretty frocks, and well fitting tailcoats. Malachi really looked adorable, and your white gowns looked very becoming.

    I loved your description of the different blessings of marriage!

    Speaking as one of the girls who before marriage was usually left without a partner at dances, I think it's a very good thing to teach boys. Do you think Malachi'll need his flirtatious nature when he grows up? I believe he might attract the girls just by those beautiful eyes of his :)

  2. Is it odd that I could "hear" your words as if they were spoken with the eloquence of the era. :) Looks like you guys had a wonderful time. I am so jealous of all that you get to do! I do agree that I loved what you said of marriage. What a awesome God we serve that he would bless us with the men in our lives!

  3. Thank you for posting the photos. Sounds and looks like you had a fabulous time. Everyone looked so amazing, and Malachi looked so adorable.

    I hope I can go some day

  4. Well, it looks like you had a beautiful time. I hadn't heard of the Jane Austen Festival until you blogged about it. And how fun to be able to "reenact" different periods other than 1860s.

    Everyone looked wonderful!

  5. Dear Sarah Jane,
    Your blog post captured the essence of the festival, I think: to please and be pleased. That is certainly what I think draws so many people to this period: good manners, witty or literate conversation, or both, elegance and dash, a high sense of sport.

    Certainly it drew pleasant people to this particular gathering; I haven't met so many pleasant, warm, helpful individuals in one place in a very long time. Put many of them in handsome dress, add some delightful, tripping dance music and a duel or too and you have an intoxicating mixture, no?

    I had been so eager to meet you at last that when I caught your profile out of a window I left my friends without ceremony and ran with a cry to give you a hug, before even being properly introduced. It was such a pleasure to see you, to meet David, to admire sweet Malachi.

    If only there had been more time to talk! This trip was certainly full of incidents along with the fun, and missing most all of the ball was such a disappointment...but worse was learning you would need to leave Sunday morning. Ah well. Next time, there will be a next time I hope!

    So glad, then, that you did have time to get to know Jenni and Carson, for they are wonderful people and Jenni is very dear to me already, although I've known her less than two years.

    Your notes about me in the post brought deep blushes and a tight throat; those feathers led you astray and you ascribe goddesshood to a very mere mortal, who is more inspired by you than you will admit. You know full well that I'd never have taken dressmaking in hand so seriously if it had not been for your posts of these last years. It takes good writing to lend a needle romance, you know, and your gifts with the pen kept me sewing when I wanted to give up.

    Last, a big request. My camera wasn't in use enough, and the flash being turned off, led to very bad pictures, so bad I cannot use them. I have not one single picture from the ball and few from any other time. Might I use some of yours, with proper credit to each one, of course? Please do let me know...

    I do have one picture, however, of Malachi on his blanket that I'd love to post and to give you. It's so sweet.


  6. How lovely! I'm so jealous! Everything looks perfect!

  7. Dear Natalie, you are *far* too modest! You are an inspiration to everyone who sees you, I am sure, and I hope to one day be able to sew like you, and research like you, and document like you! Everything you make is a piece of art - especially the petticoat you wore to the ball on Saturday night. You look like a queen!

    It was indeed very nice to meet Jenni and her husband. We were so thrilled to have their company for dinner on Saturday night and my only regret is that we live so far apart and don't have the opportunity to visit more often. What a wonderful couple they are.

    Please feel completely free to use whatever pictures you like! They are meant to be for everyone, to use however they see fit. I'm so sorry your camera did not work properly; I hope many other people took photos of you during the weekend so we can all see detailed shots of your ensembles! Are you going to do a post about your petticoat at some point?

    We do hope and currently plan on coming back to the festival next year. I think it will make a very nice yearly tradition and perhaps next time the older boys can come, as well. I think they would enjoy it just as much as we did!

    It was so nice to meet you at last! I hope that it will prove to be only the first meeting of many in the future!

  8. So much fun!!! I wish we could have been there. Alas, we will be at New Boston instead. I am glad you met my dear Doctor and Miss Waterman. It's so neat to see my dear friends mingling and not knowing it :D

  9. Y'all look so wonderful!!!! :) It sounds as tho it was a lovely time. :) The ball looked like a dream! I think I would totally get into regency things I've I could attend balls like that. :P

    Glad ya had a good time. :)


  10. I found myself here after visiting the Sense and Sensibility blog and A Frolic Through Time--I really enjoyed your photos and commentary. I think my daughters and I would really enjoy this type of event. We have a little farther to travel, coming from further North, but maybe someday we could do it.

    In the meantime, thank you for sharing so that we could attend vicariously through you:)!


  11. Dear Sarah,

    It was a great pleasure, indeed to meet you and your that I sincerely hope will be repeated again many times over in the near future.


  12. Such lovely photos and descriptions of the event. I especially like the photo of you in the parlor. Your reminds me of a folk art portrait.

    I chuckled to read how David enjoyed the attention of many admiring ladies. I imagine he knows he is indebted to you for creating for him such a dashing ensemble. You are so right about the pleasures of a marriage where trust and genuine affection leave no room for jealous impulses.

    I have a technical question about your ball gown. Did you find that the neckline behaved itself throughout the evening? You look so calm and elegant in the photo where you're holding Malachi at the ball.

  13. I am at a loss for words, yet I want to say so very much!!
    Wow - what a spectacular time! I wish I could express myself better, but I can't -and WOW is all I can say.
    So glad you enjoyed your time away from home and into Austin's world. What a magnificent event! I does help the way to describe it though - you make is sound SO very lovely!!

  14. Sarah, so glad your family had a lovely time! I sadly won't be in SE MI next year but there'll be a ton of 1812 activities going on since it's the 200th anniversary of the War. I think your family would enjoy them.

    Looks like a very nice place to visit, I'll have to add it to my list sometime!


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  16. Thank you ladies! It was indeed a marvelous time. Actually, I'm trying to resist the temptation to cut into the sheer pink printed cotton to make a new gown for *next* year since, well, I will want *something* to do next winter while waiting for the festival! :)

    Lauren, have a marvelous time at New Boston! I so hope we can go to that, probably not this year, not even as spectators, but next year looks hopeful, as long as we get approved. :)

    Laura, I found the bodice neckline did stay up just fine all evening. The only potential problem I had with it was when I was holding Malachi towards the end of the evening and he was squirming and tired and at times would grab the fabric and yank it downwards. If i didn't have an active 2 year old to wrangle with, though, I think it would have been fine throughout the entire time I wore it. Nothing was exposed, only you could see my stays and shift when Malachi yanked down on the neckline. : / I also stitched the CF top edge of the bodice to the busk pocket on the stays to keep everything up. It did seem to help. That, coupled with "squishing" made everything much less eye popping than the last post. :)

  17. Well, a fidgety, clingy two year old is probably the best test of a neckline there is, lol. Stitching the gown to the stays is a good idea though. I wonder if they often did that sort of thing. Temporary stitching is completely foreign to most people these days - not so 200 yrs ago.

  18. Laura, they did temporarily sew stuff often, especially to be taken off for washing. If you watch the first five minutes of Dangerous Liaisons, Glen Close and John Malkovitch, it shows her being sewn into her clothes.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!